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New Book 'Shifting Nature'


Shifting Nature

New Zealand - clean and green? Our wilderness - pristine? Our people - nature-lovers? Most people realise these images are something of an illusion, but few are willing to challenge or explore the issues surrounding them. Photographer Wayne Barrar is one person who is asking questions, by focusing his camera on our relationship with the environment, and his pictures really make you stop and think.

A handsome and thought-provoking survey of his work over the last fifteen years has just been published by University of Otago Press. Titled Shifting Nature, the book contains over 100 photographs, reproduced in colour and duotone, which have been brought together for the first time as a body of work in one book. Ecology historian Geoff Park has provided an introductory essay, 'Beyond the Beauty Spots of the Uninitiated.'

Barrar, a lecturer in photography at Massey University, Wellington, is a major landscape photographer. Shifting Nature contains nine exhibition-based groups of images that look at the impact of humans on the environment. The subjects range from the massive structures of hydro-electric dams to the strong colour contrasts of the saltworks at Lake Grassmere in Marlborough. The portfolio 'An Immortal Double' looks at cloning and biotechnology research, and was done before the current debate heated up.

These images 'spring from a belief that living with the truth of our illusion is preferable to living with the illusion Š' writes Geoff Park in his essay. 'We have to comprehend the deadly ordinariness with which we have subdued and stilled the primal, before we can make changes.'

As Park indicates, Barrar is not afraid to confront our reality. Shifting Nature is a profound study of how we live with and make our environment. Many images, such as the pockmarked moonscape of Nauru, are immediately arresting. In some photographs the human presence is so subtle that only a closer look reveals an unnatural scene - as in the cover picture. In this way Barrar calls into question what we take for granted as natural.

Wayne Barrar is both documentary photographer and artist, showing an investigative mind, and displaying aesthetically pleasing or striking images with technical brilliance. His work is meticulous, both in picture-taking and image-making He also explores the medium thoroughly, reviving old techniques and formats to get the finished images he is after.

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Photography authority John Turner says of Barrar that he is 'without any doubt, one of the most accomplished photographers New Zealand has ever produced.' Barrar has received recognition overseas, having been an artist in residence in both Iceland and the USA. His new book will ensure wider acclaim at home. As Park writes: 'The country in his pictures has been entirely cleared of human beings, but humans are without doubt the reason that the country appears as it does. These are places we have 'settled', but in Barrar's images they are capable of unsettling us.'


Contents Introduction/Essay by Geoff Park 1 Landscape of Change 2 Nauru Portfolio 3 Saltworks: The Processed Landscape 4 Shifting Nature 5 Mason Bay: A Natural Succession 6 from Waikato Te Awa: The People and the River 7 Restoring Ground 8 Herschel's Blue 9 An Immortal Double Notes on the Photographs Bibliographic Notes

About the Photographer/Author Wayne Barrar is a lecturer in photography at Massey University, Wellington. His work is exhibited regularly in New Zealand as well as internationally. He has been an artist-in-residence in Iceland and the USA. A solo exhibition, Wayne Barrar: Landscapes of Change, was shown at the Nevada Museum of Art in 2001.

CONTACT To interview Wayne Barrar, please contact him directly on: (04) 801 2794 extn 6666 (work) (04) 479 1490 (home)

Geoff Park researches and writes on ecology and history. His book, Nga Uruora: The Groves of Life, was published in 1995. He has worked as a plant ecologist in Australia and the islands of Oceania, as well as New Zealand. He is currently Concept Leader - Papatuanuku at Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand.

Shifting Nature Photographs by Wayne Barrar With an essay by Geoff Park 120 pages ISBN 1 877276 05 7 Published August 2001 $49.95

CONTACT For more information, contact Philippa Jamieson, University of Otago Press, tel. (03) 479 9094, fax (03) 479 8385, email:

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